Policy

Higher Degree by Research Examination - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

This policy provides a University-wide framework describing the examination process for the award of the degrees of Master of Philosophy, Doctor of Philosophy, and Professional Doctorate by Research.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Chair of Examiners - an academic staff member of the University nominated by the Head of the Enrolling AOU who is familiar with the research discipline, or in the case of multi-disciplinary theses, is familiar with part of the research discipline represented in the thesis.

COI - Conflict of Interest.

Dean - Dean of the UQ Graduate School or delegate.

Enrolling AOU- an Academic Organisational Unit that directly enrols HDR candidates.

HDR -Higher Degree by Research comprising MPhil, PhD, and PDR.

MPhil - Master of Philosophy.

Open Access - Thesis publically searchable and available via the Internet.

PDR – Professional Doctorate by Research.

PhD - Doctor of Philosophy.

Principal Advisor - takes primary academic responsibility for the candidate during their candidature with their role and eligibility outlined in PPL 4.60.01 Eligibility and Role of Higher Degree by Research Advisors.

Thesis - The material outcomes of a sustained program of supervised research undertaken by a candidate whilst enrolled in a HDR program.

Thesis embargo - Temporary embargo of a thesis for a period of up to 3 years.

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

This policy applies to the examination for all UQ HDR candidates for the award of the degree of MPhil, PhD and PDR.

4. Policy Statement

The award of an HDR is based on independent assessment of the quality of the research output or thesis. External, independent examiners with recognised disciplinary expertise make a written assessment of the thesis. Candidates who commence enrolment in an HDR from 1 January 2018 will also undergo an oral examination. This enables the quality of the candidate to also be examined. Assessment of the thesis, combined with performance in the oral examination, results in a recommendation from the examiners as to whether the candidate should be awarded an HDR. The final decision to recommend the award of the degree is made by the Dean.

5. Nomination of Examiners

5.1 Three examiners are nominated by the enrolling AOU for each HDR examination.

5.2 Two examiners are selected by the Dean from the list supplied by the enrolling AOU.

5.3 Examiners must be external to and independent of UQ and must have appropriate qualifications, expertise, and experience.

6. Conflict of Interest

6.1 Any actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest, as defined in the Conflict of Interest Policy (PPL 1.50.11) and the Responsible Conduct of Research Policy (PPL 4.20.02) must be declared by the enrolling AOU, the advisory team and the candidate.

6.2 As part of the invitation to examine a thesis, a potential examiner will be asked to declare any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest.

6.3 The existence of a COI does not automatically preclude the approval of a nominated examiner. Information provided about the nature of the conflict is assessed by the Dean in the decision making process.

6.4 If a COI arises during or after the examination, the Dean may annul one or both examiners' reports in which case a replacement examiner(s) will be appointed as described in the process outlined in Section 5.

7. Thesis Submission

7.1 A candidate must be enrolled at the time the thesis is submitted for examination.

7.2 All theses are submitted for examination in electronic format.

7.3 No thesis is to exceed the maximum word limit without the approval of the Dean.

7.4 All theses must adhere to the UQ specified format for the type of thesis submitted and adhere to the preliminary pages template. For any variation in format the candidate must obtain the permission of the Dean.

7.5 Submission of a thesis without the agreement of the principal advisor(s) requires permission of the Dean, and support of the enrolling AOU.

8. Examination

8.1 Every component of the examination, including thesis, oral examination or creative work examination, must be assessed as satisfactory before the degree can be awarded.

8.2 Candidates must not make contact with their examiners, or nominated examiners, unless otherwise advised by the Dean.

8.3 Once the Dean has formally invited the examiners, the enrolling AOU and the advisory team must not contact examiners regarding the examination process until the candidate’s degree requirements have been met, unless otherwise advised by the Dean.

8.4 Contact with examiners by candidates, the enrolling AOU or the advisory team may result in the annulment of the examination reports and the appointment of a replacement examiner(s) by the Dean.

8.5 An examiner wishing to enter into a dialogue with another examiner, a member of the candidate’s advisory team, the Chair of Examiners or the candidate must direct their request via the Dean.

9. Oral Examination

9.1 All HDR candidates who commence after 1 January 2018 will undergo an oral examination.

9.2 An oral examination does not replace a written thesis examination but is conducted in addition to the written examination.

9.3 An oral examination cannot proceed unless both examiners' reports have been received and approved by the Dean.

10. Confidential Examination

10.1 A confidential examination may be approved when a certain level of legal protection is required by either the enrolling AOU or a third party, that goes beyond the level of confidentiality expected in any thesis examination. For example, this situation may arise when a thesis contains material that may be commercial-in-confidence, may give rise to a patent, or may be legally or culturally sensitive.

10.2 A confidential thesis examination may proceed upon agreement between the enrolling AOU and the Dean.

10.3 Confidential examinations must be conducted under a UQ Thesis Examiner Confidentiality Agreement.

10.4 The approval of a request for a confidential thesis examination does not confer any automatic or legal right to embargo public access to the thesis after the examination is complete.

11. Examination Outcomes

11.1 Each examiner provides a written assessment of the thesis with feedback for the improvement and/or revision of the thesis and participates in the oral component of the examination.

11.2 The decision on the outcome of the examination is made by the Dean after consideration of the examiners' written reports and the report from the oral examination committee. In some cases the Dean may choose to consult with the Chair of Examiners prior to making a decision.

11.3 Where the outcome for the thesis examination is fail, the thesis cannot be submitted for consideration for another degree.

11.4 Candidates may be withdrawn without academic penalty if they fail to adhere to timelines to provide their thesis corrections or to resubmit their thesis for examination.

12. Award of MPhil Degree in lieu of PhD

12.1 The Dean may, on the basis of the examiners’ reports, conclude that the candidate's work is not sufficient for the award of a PhD but is sufficient for the award of an MPhil. The Dean will then advise the student of this decision.

12.2 Candidates must advise the Dean within 20 business days that the MPhil will be accepted.

12.3 If the MPhil is not accepted, the Dean may fail the candidate.

13. Meeting Degree Requirements

13.1 Once all required thesis revisions have been completed and approved by the Dean, candidates are required to upload a final copy of their thesis to the UQ eSpace.

13.2 The final thesis copy will become the official university record.

13.3 The candidate must meet all legislative requirements before the degree can be conferred.

14. Access to a Thesis

14.1 The University supports the underlying principles of making publications freely available online as described in PPL 4.20.08 Open Access for UQ Research Outputs and based on the ARC Open Access Policy and the NHMRC Dissemination of Research Findings.

Custodians
Dean, Graduate School Professor Alastair McEwan

Procedures

Higher Degree by Research Examination - Procedures

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These procedures outline the process and steps for HDR examination.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Chair of Examiners - an academic staff member of the University nominated by the Head of the Enrolling AOU who is familiar with the research discipline, or in the case of multi-disciplinary theses, be familiar with part of the research discipline represented in the thesis.

COI - Conflict of Interest.

Dean - Dean of the UQ Graduate School or delegate.

Enrolling AOU - an Academic Organisational Unit that directly enrols HDR candidates.

HDR - Higher Degree by Research comprising MPhil, PhD, and PDR.

MPhil - Master of Philosophy.

Open Access - Thesis publically searchable and available via the internet.

PDR – Professional Doctorate by Research.

PhD - Doctor of Philosophy.

Principal Advisor -takes primary academic responsibility for the candidate during their candidature with their role and eligibility outlined in PPL 4.60.01 Eligibility and Role of Higher Degree by Research Advisors.

Thesis -The material outcomes of a sustained program of supervised research undertaken by a candidate whilst enrolled in an HDR program.

3. Procedures Scope/Coverage

These procedures apply to all HDR candidates.

4. Procedures Statement

These procedures outline the steps for HDR examination.

The award of an HDR is based on independent assessment of the quality of the research output or thesis as well as the candidate’s performance at the oral examination. External, independent examiners with recognised disciplinary expertise make a written assessment of the thesis, participate in the oral examination, and provide a recommendation as to whether the candidate should be awarded an HDR. The final decision to recommend the award of the degree is made by the Dean.

5. Nomination of Examiners

5.1 Examiners are invited to participate by the Dean.

5.2 Prior to thesis submission, the enrolling AOU nominates a minimum of three examiners, and provides their contact details to the Graduate School. The enrolling AOU also nominates a chair of examiners.

5.3 The Dean will determine which two of the three nominated examiners will be invited to participate.

5.4 Additional nominations from the AOU may be requested.

6. Conflict of Interest

6.1 All actual, potential or perceived COIs must be declared at the time of nomination of thesis examiners.

7. Thesis Format Requirements

7.1 The thesis should not exceed 80,000 words for a PhD or 40,000 words for an MPhil. The word l imit includes all footnotes and appendices but not the bibliography. Requests to exceed this word l imit must be approved by the Dean.

7.2 Formatting should be: line spacing 1.5, Times New Roman or Arial 12 pt font, all four margins 20mm, A4 size.

7.3 All theses must adhere to the preliminary pages template.

8. Thesis Submission

8.1 Thesis upload

The thesis is submitted when:

  • an approved Thesis Submission request has been received by the Graduate School.
  • the thesis and abstract have been uploaded to the UQ eSpace.

8.2 Candidates under examination

8.2.1 A HDR candidate will maintain enrolment in the program until the oral examination is completed or, if no oral examination is required, the thesis is submitted for examination.

8.2.2 HDR candidates who have completed the oral exam, or submitted the thesis if no oral examination is required, will be placed on the enrolment status ‘under examination’ at this time. A HDR candidate who has submitted their thesis and has been enrolled for 4 years FTE will also be placed ‘under examination’. For a candidate who has not submitted their thesis by 4 years FTE enrolment, a review of candidature may be conducted in accordance with PPL 4.60.11 Higher Degree by Research Candidature – Procedures section 11.

8.2.3 HDR candidates under examination do not consume enrolment load and therefore are not tuition fee liable or eligible to receive scholarship payments. 

8.3 Approval of thesis submission

8.3.1 Where a candidate requests permission to submit without the Principal Advisor’s approval, the candidate must make a written case to the Dean. Following consultation with the Head of the AOU, Postgraduate Coordinator and Principal Advisor a decision will be made.

9. Examination

9.1 Thesis Examination

9.1.1 All examiners are supplied with an electronic copy of the thesis by the Graduate School. In exceptional cases a printed copy may be supplied upon request.

9.1.2 Examiners are asked to examine the thesis document against the following criteria:

  • Does the thesis demonstrate a significant and original contribution to knowledge (PhD) or show originality in the application of knowledge (MPhil)?
  • Does the thesis engage with the literature and the work of others?
  • Does the thesis show an advanced knowledge of research principles and methods relating to the applicable discipline?
  • Is there a clear and discernible coherence in the presented research, its arguments and conclusions?
  • Is the thesis convincingly written?

9.1.3 Only the thesis abstract can be supplied to an examiner by the enrolling AOU. Supply of additional information about, or components of, the thesis may result in the examiner's report being annulled.

9.1.4 Examiners are requested to return their written reports within 4 weeks for an MPhil examination and 6 weeks for a PhD examination.

9.1.5 After the requisite time period, the Dean may elect to replace an examiner if there has been undue delay in receiving the examiner's report. Once a thesis has been sent to a replacement examiner, any report subsequently received from the examiner who has been replaced shall not be considered in determining the result of the examination.

    9.2 Oral examination

    9.2.1 The oral examination panel is comprised of:

    • Chair of Examiners - an academic member of the University who is familiar with the discipline and who is not part of the advisory team.
    • Examiners – if feasible examiners should participate in person, however, the use of video conferencing is appropriate.

    9.2.2 The advisory team does not form part of the examination panel.

    9.2.3 The Graduate School will advise the candidate of the final thesis outcome as recommended by the Dean and will forward the report of the oral examination panel. If changes to the thesis are required, the candidate must upload the copy of the corrected thesis plus a list of the changes made to the thesis to the UQ eSpace prior to completion of the paperwork for the conferral of the degree.

    9.3 Confidential examination

    9.3.1 All examinations should be treated as confidential but in cases where a certain level of legal protection is required, in the case of material that may be commercial-in-confidence, given rise to a patent or be legally or culturally sensitive, then a request should be made at the time of nomination of examiners.

    9.3.2 Examiners will be advised to seek independent legal advice prior to signing a legally binding Confidentiality Agreement.

    10. Examination Outcomes

    10.1 Possible outcomes of HDR examination include:

    1. The candidate be awarded the degree without further changes.

    2. The candidate be awarded the degree without further examination after the changes required by examiners have been made to the satisfaction of the Chair of Examiners and the Dean.

    3. The candidate not yet be awarded the degree, but be allowed to resubmit a thesis revised in response to the comments and recommendations of the examiner(s).

    4. The candidate not yet be awarded the degree, but be allowed to repeat the oral examination component in response to the comments and recommendation of the oral examination panel.

    5. A fail, after the second examination of the thesis only.

    10.2 Thesis Corrections

    10.2.1 Thesis corrections are made in response to outcomes 1 to 3 in section 10.1 or section 10.3 in the case of an outcome of revise and resubmit. Thesis corrections in response to outcomes 2 and 3 are required to be completed within 3 months.

    10.2.2 The enrolling AOU will forward a fully endorsed Recommendation to Confer Degree once satisfied the candidate has made the changes requested by the examiner(s) or satisfactorily defended on academic grounds the absence of changes.

    10.2.3 A candidate can request a 3 month extension to complete the thesis corrections. Candidates who do not submit their thesis corrections for review following this extended period may be withdrawn from the program without academic penalty.

    10.3 Revise and resubmit

    10.3.1 When a candidate receives an outcome of revise and resubmit the thesis will be re-examined by both original examiners, when possible. If any of the original examiners are unable to re-examine the revised thesis, replacement examiner/s will be nominated by the enrolling AOU, by submitting a request, and appointed by the Dean.

    10.3.2 Following revision of the thesis, the submission process, as outlined in Section 8, is repeated.

    10.3.3 Examiners will be sent the resubmitted thesis, the original examiners' reports (including oralexamination report if applicable) and candidate's response to the examiners' comments.

    10.3.4 Where the examiners disagree on the examination outcome following revision of the thesis, the Dean may appoint a third examiner nominated by the enrolling AOU. All three reports will then be considered by the Dean of the Graduate School in approving an examination outcome.

    10.3.5 If a candidate has an outcome of revise and resubmit, when the thesis is re-examined, the possible outcomes for the thesis include outcomes 1 to 3 as described in section 10 as well as:

    1. MPhil (for a PhD re-examination only) - The candidate has not demonstrated a contribution to knowledge that is of sufficient significance and originality for a PhD but fulfuils the criteria for an MPhil.
    2. Fail - The thesis is not of the appropriate standard for the award of any higher degree by research.

    10.3.6 Candidates who do not resubmit their thesis for re-examination within a 12 month initial period, may request an extension for a period not exceeding 3 months (MPhil) or 6 months (PhD). Following this extended period a candidate may request a final 3 month extension, after which time they may be liable for withdrawal from the degree without academic penalty.

    11. Chair of Examiners

    11.1 The Chair of Examiners provides academic oversight of the examination process, including conducting the oral examination, coordinating the oral examination panel report and review of the candidate's response to examiners' comments and recommendations.

    12. Meeting Degree Requirements

    12.1 The candidate must confirm their thesis title is correct and enter a 100 word abstract into mySI-net when directed by the Graduate School.

    12.2 Once the above are completed, the candidate will receive confirmation from the Graduate School that degree requirements have been met.

    13. Access to a Thesis

    13.1 Upon submitting the thesis for examination, a candidate will determine whether he/she intends to have the thesis made available immediately upon conferral as Open Access or to apply for an Embargo placed on access on the basis of academic, cultural, ethical, legal or commercial reasons. The application must be supported by the candidate's Principal Advisor and be approved by the Dean. If approved, the embargo will be set for a 3 year period in the first instance. Where the candidate and Principal Advisor have differing views on the selection of the access option, the matter will be referred to the Dean for determination.

    13.2 In circumstances where a candidate has transferred their IP to the University, the Principal Advisor will make a recommendation to the Dean on the thesis access arrangements, taking academic, cultural, ethical, legal and commercial factors into consideration. In cases where the Principal Advisor is not employed by the University a recommendation will be sought from the Head of the AOU.

    13.3 Every three years for theses under Embargo, the Graduate School will make contact with the thesis author, or the Principal Advisor in the case where IP has been transferred to the University, to advise that the Embargo period is due for review. Where the Principal Advisor is not employed by the University, the matter will be referred to the Head of the enrolling unit for a recommendation.

    13.4 Requests for renewal of the Embargo will be considered by the Dean. In the absence of an approved request for an Embargo extension, a thesis will transfer to Open Access.

    13.5 The University's responsibilities, together with any relevant academic, cultural, ethical, legal or commercial factors should be considered when determining whether a request will be made for an Embargo extension.

    Custodians
    Dean, Graduate School Professor Alastair McEwan

    Guidelines

    Higher Degree by Research Examination - Guidelines

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    1. Submission for Examination

    The following requirements must be met for thesis submission:

    • an indication if embargo is required;
    • the thesis has been submitted to iThenticate and the Principal Advisor has sighted this and verified that the thesis is ready to be examined;
    • the thesis and abstract must be in PDF format, supplementary audio files are to be in MP 3 format;
    • supplementary video files are to be in WMV or AVI format;
    • all documents uploaded to the UQ eSpace must not be password protected, all fields in the UQ eSpace must be completed when uploading documents, all documents must be attached to a singular UQ eSpace record;
    • PDF files must be saved using the following naming structure <student number> <degree type><stage examination>. Stages of examination are: submission, or correctedthesis, or finalthesis.

    2. Conflict of Interest

    The Graduate School ensures that all thesis examiners act with integrity. All Conflicts of Interest (COI) are declared so that a thesis may be assessed free from any perception of bias or preferential treatment. UQ's COI guidelines are informed by those of the Australian Council of Graduate Research.

    2.1 Relationships that would normally exclude a potential examiner include:

    Working

    • Examiner is in negotiation to directly employ or be employed by the candidate or advisor;
    • Examiner was a candidate of the advisor within the past 5 years;
    • Examiner has directly employed or been employed by the advisor or candidate within the past 5 years.

    Personal/Legal

    • Examiner is legally family or known relative to the advisor or candidate is a legal guardian or has power of attorney for the advisor or candidate.

    Other

    • Examiner has a formal grievance with UQ;
    • Examiner is a current academic staff member at UQ or has a current Honorary, Adjunct or Emeritus position or is an academic title holder (Medicine) with UQ.

    2.2 Working relationships with the examiner are to be declared on the Nomination of Thesis Examiners request and which may lead to exclusion as an examiner include:

    • Examiner has co-authored a paper with the candidate or advisor within the last 5 years;
    • Examiner has worked with the candidate on matters regarding the thesis, e.g. previous member of the advisory team;
    • Examiner has employed the candidate or advisor or been employed by the candidate or advisor within the last 5 years;
    • Examiner has acted as a referee for the candidate or advisor for employment;
    • Examiner has co-supervised with the advisor in the past 5 years;
    • Examiner holds a patent with the advisor granted no more than 8 years ago and which is still in force;
    • Examiner holds a current grant with the advisor.

    The examples provided above are indicative and are not considered exhaustive.

    3. Oral Examination

    3.1 The main objectives of the oral examination are to:

    • establish that the candidate fully understands the work and its wider implications;
    • provide the candidate with an opportunity to reply to criticism or challenge;
    • enable the examiners to clarify issues in the thesis which may be unclear;
    • help the examiners to decide on the nature and extent of any corrections or revisions which may be required;
    • provide the examiners with an opportunity to clearly communicate required corrections or revisions to the candidate;
    • authenticate the contribution made by the candidate to the thesis and ensure that the candidate has a clear understanding of the contribution of collaborators to the thesis.

    3.2 The oral examination will include assessment of the candidate's ability to:

    • demonstrate detailed knowledge of the thesis;
    • locate their research in the broader context of their discipline;
    • demonstrate the originality of the thesis and the contribution it makes to state of knowledge in the field;
    • defend the methodology and conclusions of the thesis;
    • display awareness of the limitations of the thesis.

    3.3 Examiners are invited to examine the thesis in the knowledge that an oral examination will be held as part of the examination process. Examiners are requested to provide a full written report and a recommendation on the thesis outcome for consideration by the Dean within 6 weeks of thesis submission.

    3.4 The oral examination should be scheduled approximately 8 weeks after the date of thesis submission.

    3.5 Examiners' reports and summary recommendation are submitted directly to the Graduate School.

    3.6 Once both reports have been received by the Graduate School they will be forwarded to the Chair of Examiners.

    3.7 The Chair of Examiners will distribute the examiners' reports to the members of the oral examination panel and the principal advisor. The Chair of Examiners will consult with the candidate to discuss the examiners’ reports after which the reports will be provided to the candidate.

    3.8 The candidate should receive the examiners' reports at least 1 week prior to the oral examination. If this is not possible then the oral examination may be postponed.

    3.9 The candidate will provide a seminar on their thesis work to the examination panel, typically no more than 30 minutes in duration.

    3.10 At the conclusion of the seminar, the candidate and the oral examination panel conduct a closed interview during which time the panel discusses the thesis with the candidate.

    3.11 At the conclusion of the interview with the candidate, the panel will meet in the absence of the candidate to discuss the outcome and produce a written report that should be submitted to the Dean within two business days. This report will contain a recommendation on the outcome of the oral examination and will delineate any changes required to be made to the thesis before the conferral of the degree. If the comments are substantially different from the written reports of the examiners then a justification of these differences must be included in the report.

    3.12 The panel may advise the candidate of their recommendation. However, the determination of outcome remains with the Dean, who will consider the examiners' written reports together with the report from the oral examination panel.

    4. Chair of Examiners

    4.1 The Chair of Examiners:

    • is nominated for each HDR candidate whose thesis is submitted for examination;
    • is identified at the thesis review milestone;
    • is an academic staff member of UQ;
    • is a member of UQ's Principal Advisor Registry;
    • must hold a degree of a level equivalent to or greater than the one the thesis is being examined for;
    • must be familiar with the research discipline represented in the candidate's thesis, or in the case of multi-disciplinary theses, be familiar with part of the research discipline represented by the thesis;
    • must not be a current or former member of the advisor team.

    4.2 Duties of the Chair of Examiners include:

    • conduct the oral examination meeting;
    • coordinate the oral examination committee report;
    • review and determine the adequacy of the response of the candidate to the examiner(s) comments and recommendations;
    • provide specific academic advice to the Dean on an examiner(s)' recommendation when requested. This may occur when the examiners' recommendations are highly divergent or when there is a recommendation of revise and resubmit. The Chair of Examiners is expected to confer with the candidate's advisory team and must confine his/her comments to the matters raised in the examiner(s)' reports.
    Custodians
    Dean, Graduate School Professor Alastair McEwan

    Forms

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    Timetable for Completing Thesis Corrections for RHD Candidates - Form

    Timetable for Completing Thesis Corrections for RHD Candidates - Form

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    Description: 

    This form is used to advise the timetable for completing corrections or revisions to an RHD thesis.

    Custodians
    Dean, Graduate School Professor Alastair McEwan
    Custodians
    Dean, Graduate School Professor Alastair McEwan
    Custodians
    Dean, Graduate School Professor Alastair McEwan